Inheriting a Hornet’s Nest

hillary

As  the nastiest election campaign in US history mercifully comes to an end, I am left wondering how much damage has been done to the political system and what can be done to fix it.

It looks as if Hillary will be President, and the Democrats will pick up seats in Congress. But that doesn’t mean she will be able to do all of the things she has promised.

Senator John McCain, for example, has vowed that Republican senators will block any Supreme Court appointment she makes. Obviously it’s going to be business as usual in Congress.

In 2008 Barack Obama had majorities in both chambers but found out that some politicians who ran as Democrats were not willing to support the party platform. The resulting gridlock was disastrous.

And it grew worse as Tea Party Republicans gained power in Washington. The result was the worst Congress ever.

Vowing to block any and all of the President’s initiatives Republicans used the senate filibuster and every other tactic at their disposal to pursue this strategy.  The nation’s business was neglected as partisan politics paralyzed government.

Misinformed and disinformed by a rabid right-wing propaganda machine, a wide swath of the population became enraged at the very people who were trying to help them and sided with the schemers who were gaming the system for their own profit.

The propagandists used wedge issues like abortion to divide the populace. They provoked such primitive instincts as racial prejudice and religious bigotry to set Americans against each other. And they exaggerated the threat of terrorism to create widespread fear and mistrust.

President Obama was able to achieve remarkable progress in the face of this diabolical opposition, but, in the process, a significant part of the American population turned against him. These people are Donald Trump’s supporters, and they will not accept Trump’s defeat gracefully.

America’s first female President will inherit a hornet’s nest.

It will take all of her formidable intellectual powers to restore reason and good government in Washington. But I am confident she will find a way.

In a lifetime of public service, she has shown remarkable skill in dealing with complex challenges. And you know she never gives up.

 

The Truth about Abortion

hillary

 

No doubt about it, abortion can be a grisly business. But it is a fact of life. Sometimes the mother’s health – even her life – is at risk. Sometimes the fetus is damaged beyond repair. Sometimes the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. And sometimes a woman simply does not want to give birth for reasons of her own.

And nothing is going to stop her from having an abortion.

So should she have to rely on a back-alley quack? Or should she have access to safe and sanitary facilities?

As a young reporter back in the days before abortion was legal, I was horrified by the tragedies I encountered as girls and women submitted to the butchery of coat-hanger wielding abortionists.

This alone justifies legalization of abortion as far as I am concerned.

But it does not answer the underlying question. Should the termination of a pregnancy be a matter for government regulation?

Or should it be up to the woman, her doctor and her conscience?

In Wednesday’s presidential debate, Hillary Clinton made the most forthright defense of a woman’s right to choose that I have ever heard.

Here’s the punch line:

I can tell you the government has no business in the decisions that women make with their families in accordance with their faith and with medical advice, and I will stand up for that right.

When you think about it, that’s the real line in the sand.

As I watched Hillary sitting next to Cardinal Timothy Dolan at last night’s Al Smith memorial banquet (photo above), I wondered what the Catholic priest must be thinking. And it occurred to me that his views should matter to Catholics but they should not be imposed on non-Catholics by government edict.

It is totally understandable for your religion to dictate what you do with your body, but it is not reasonable for your religion to dictate what some other person does with their body.

Under the Constitution every American has the right to liberty. And to the privacy they need to enjoy that liberty. That’s the bottom line.

More on Hillary’s stand

 

Trump’s Last Hurrah

trumpTrump went out swinging, leaving one last headline as the epitaph for his bizarre campaign. I haven’t read the papers but I bet they will all be agog over his refusal to say he will accept the election’s result if he loses.

An insult to our democracy, the pundits at MSNBC and CNN declared. Unprecedented. Shocking. And so on.

OK. But what else do you expect from Trump?

He never changes his spots. He lives to create headlines. But not to worry. Trump will accept his spanking like a surly schoolboy. There won’t be pitchforks in the street, after all. This is America, not some benighted backwoods country.

If you saw the debate, you don’t need me to tell you what went on. If not, you most likely don’t care. But I can’t resist making a few observations.

Why does he sniff like that? And he’s the one advocating a pre-debate drug test?

And why does he hate women?

You don’t believe me?

Think about that last ugly gasp of his:

Such a nasty woman!!

Not nasty person. Nasty woman. And you heard the venom with which he spat out “woman.”

If there was still some woman somewhere who was still planning to vote for the man, I bet that changed her mind.

Yes, I know he will get the single-issue voters who want a Supreme Court that will make abortion illegal again. And he will get some dummies who don’t know it was the Republican Party that gave us free trade.

But I think last night’s debate sealed the deal: This will be the biggest landslide since Goldwater. America is about to welcome its first woman President.

 

Why Have Another Debate?

debate

 

I dread tonight’s “debate.” And I wonder why we the people are being subjected to another of these slugfests.

Surely we know by now what the candidates think of each other?

In a word, Hillary considers Trump “unfit.”

Trump views Hillary as “crooked.”

Do we really need to rehash Trump’s sleazy sexual history? Haven’t we heard all we want to hear about Hillary’s emails?

Does it matter what they say tonight? As the old people say in Jamaica, “words are wind.”

If they do get around to discussing actual policies, you know they’ll just be daydreaming.

Even when one of them becomes President, as one of them will, they must persuade Congress to pass the laws they keep promising. And good luck with that!

You and I know Trump’s promises are just background noise, anyway. His policies shift like a straw in the wind, varying wildly from day to day. If he were to level with us, he would just say he’ll do whatever he feels like doing on the spur of the moment.

Of course whatever he does will be catastrophic. He’s that kind of guy.

I trust Hillary to be sane. I probably won’t agree with everything she does. But I know she will not plunge the world into nuclear war. She has grandchildren to worry about, and she didn’t trigger World War III as secretary of state.

Trump? Who knows what he will do? Cozy up to Putin probably. Slash taxes for the rich. Antagonize our allies around the world. Sabotage the global economy. Stumble into war. Choose a bunch of gangsters for his cabinet…

Is there anyone on earth who is still “undecided”? Americans are already voting in some states for Heaven’s sake!

Anuglyother debate is not only superfluous, it’s also dangerous. There’s an undertow of violence in this campaign. And demonstrations are planned at the debate’s venue tonight. The last thing America needs is more inflammatory rhetoric.

So why do we have to endure 90 more minutes of crazy talk? Why do we have to look at President Obama’s half brother dragged all the way from Kenya to do what? Why do we have to listen to Trump bellowing liar, liar?

Haven’t we had enough?

But, having said all this, you know I’ll be watching the debate tonight along with millions of others. I guess I’m a sucker for punishment.

Debate preview

 

Trump and the Mob. Again.

 

trump

 

I keep seeing the sinister shadow of organized crime behind Donald Trump’s candidacy. So many of his surrogates have links to the mob. And his business associates include mob-linked oligarchs in Russia and the Ukraine.

And, of course, there’s his validated association with mobsters in his New York real estate developments and his casino deals.

Now, in Phoenix, Arizona, a newspaper that endorsed Hillary is being threatened by thugs.

don_bollesIf you’re old enough, you might remember Don Bolles (photo at right). He was an investigative reporter at the Arizona Republic who was murdered by criminals. Some thug taped six sticks of dynamite to the bottom of his car. The Mafia is suspected of ordering the hit.

That was 40 years ago.

This year, the Republic broke with 125 years of Republican endorsements and came out for Hillary Clinton.

Threats came pouring in.

parrish-2According to the Republic’s president Mi-Ai Parrish (at right), quoted in Yahoo News this morning:

One person threatened the lives of the paper’s journalists by suggesting they might die in a car bomb like Republic reporter Don Bolles had 40 years ago.

Others said they wanted the Republic to be shut down or burned down, or that that they wished it would cease operations under a new president. Some critics spit on or bullied young people selling subscriptions door-to-door. “Hacks,” “losers” and “un-American” were other insults hurled at the paper for not endorsing Trump.

Don’t you wonder who that “one person” is? The one who remembers Don Bolles after all this time, the one who threatens to do the same thing to the newspaper’s reporters now? I do.

The Yahoo News item

More on Don Bolles

More on Trump’s mob ties

 

Blaming Hillary for Everything

nafta

 

According to Trump and his acolytes, everything that has ever gone wrong in this world of ours is Hillary Clinton’s fault.

They blame her for intervening in Libya, but that was not really her idea. The Libyan invasion was NATO’s response to a UN resolution calling for an end to the massacre of civilians, which was considered “a crime against humanity.”

As a NATO member, the US was obliged to join the invasion, along with Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Qatar, Spain and the UK. Hillary just happened to be America’s secretary of state at the time.

They blame her for the mess in Syria, which is the result of a popular uprising against a bloodthirsty despot, complicated by a behind-the-scenes power struggle featuring Russia and Iran vs Saudi Arabia, resurgence of an extremist Islamic movement and a regional religious war.

They blame her for Anthony Wiener’s sexts, for Trump’s tax avoidance, for Bill’s peccadillos, for the “Birther” lie, for anything and everything that has gone wrong in the world in the past half century.

They even blame her for NAFTA, and Trump keeps saying it was Bill who signed the hated trade agreement.

In fact, while Bill signed the agreement into law after he became President, it was George W. Bush who signed the agreement, along with Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

It was a Republican Congress that passed the law.

It’s the Republicans who have always promoted globalization, in order to benefit the corporations that fund their party. Trump would have zero chance of getting a Republican Congress to pass any law that got in the way of global free trade.

Like just about every word that comes out of Trump’s mouth, his promises to create jobs by imposing tariffs on imports and renegotiating trade pacts is hot air.

Photo above shows: Back row, left to right: Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, U.S. President George H. W. Bush, and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, at the initialing of the draft North American Free Trade Agreement in October 1992. In front are Mexican Secretary of Commerce and Industrial DevelopmentJaime Serra Puche, United States Trade Representative Carla Hills, and Canadian Minister of International Trade Michael Wilson.

The truth about NAFTA

The Syrian invasion

 

A Truly Great First Lady

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, sit for a family portrait in the Oval Office, Dec. 11, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.Ê

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters, Sasha and Malia

As  the first black First Lady, Michelle Obama held the aspirations of a nation in her hands.

Her challenge: Be a lady yet be a force for dramatic and benevolent change.

And raise two young daughters under relentless scrutiny while doing that.

One misstep could have caused irreparable damage to the entire African American community. and dashed the dreams of millions around the globe.

She has met the challenge with flying colors.

This amazing woman is an exemplary role model not only for African American women and girls but also for all women and girls everywhere. An inspiration to boys and men, too.

No breath of scandal has tainted her years in the White House. No assault on her dignity has evoked an unladylike response. She has been the target of the basest kind of racism and vulgarity, yet she has held her head high.

Here’s how that achievement is described in an article by Matthew Dallek, associate professor at George Washington’s Graduate School of Political Management, which I read in Yahoo News this morning:

 

Time to Talk about Sex

sex

 

The revelations of widespread sexual assault unleashed by Donald Trump’s beastly behavior has spotlighted a critical failure in civilized society. I hope the conversation spreads from America around the globe. This topic must be dragged out of the shadows and sorted out, however painful that might be.

As a man, I must confess that I have not always been sensitive to the feelings of women. I have made inappropriate remarks in an office setting, for example, and openly ogled female passers by.

But I assure you I have never, ever in my entire life, drunk or sober, thrust my hand up a strange woman’s skirt or kissed a casual business associate on the lips.

It seems I might be in the minority.

Apparently, sexual predators are far more numerous than I had imagined. And it seems this behavior is often taken for granted in the workplace.

Donald Trump Jr. once opined in a TV interview that women who can’t “handle” inappropriate behavior shouldn’t work in an office but choose a career like kindergarten teacher instead.

A writer named Kelly Oxford asked girls and women to share their stories of sexual assault on Twitter. To get the ball rolling, she volunteered information about an assault she had endured as a little girl:

Old man on city bus grabs my p**** and smiles at me. I’m 12

According to a National Public Radio report, responses “poured in—not by the dozens or the hundreds, but by the thousands.”

The women described a vast array of offenses by all kinds of men:

Strangers on the bus, in the street, on the subway, at a concert. Fathers. Uncles. Baby sitters. Classmates. Teachers. Doctors. Priests. Friends.

The women had been 23, or 17, or 11, or 9, or 6. In 140 characters, they expressed shock or the grim absence of surprise. They shared guilt and anger and shame. They told of family members who didn’t believe them. Or they shared nothing but the narrowest facts: where they were, what was done to them.

Groped. Penetrated. Rubbed against. Exposed. Masturbated on. Stalked. Slapped. Raped. Forcibly kissed.

There are laws against such atrocities. But, according to NPR, many of the women said they had not reported the assaults. I imagine they felt too embarrassed, too ashamed, in some cases even too guilty.

I am not a psychologist, and I don’t pretend to understand human nature. But surely something is awry in society?

For one thing, there’s a vast misunderstanding here. As a teenager in Jamaica, I was often assured by other boys that women like forceful men, that when they say no, they really mean yes.

And I am sure women would be forlorn if men no longer expressed admiration for them, no longer made romantic overtures or sexual advances.

But obviously the kind of behavior reported by the women on Twitter is intolerable. Obviously, something must be done to curb it.

But what?

The NPR story

The latest on Trump

The Donald Trump Jr. interview

 

Trapped in Mideast Madness

mideast

 

America finds itself fighting on both sides of a religious war in the Middle East. In Iraq, US troops are helping the Shia government purge the ISIS infection. In Yemen, a US destroyer is firing missiles at the rebels supported by Iran’s Shia government.

That’s the way it is all over the region.

The Shia and Sunni Muslims are in an age-old struggle for supremacy, and the US seems to be on one side in one country and the other side in another.

Complicating the situation is the fact that ISIS is a Sunni sect. And Saudi Arabia has been a major source of funds for ISIS and other extremist terror groups that threaten America.

Meanwhile, Iran has been funding Shia militias, and is supporting the Shia rebels in Yemen.

There’s more.

The Kurds have been the West’s most reliable ally in Iraq and have borne the brunt of the campaign against ISIS. But in Turkey, the US supports President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is bombing the Kurds at home and in Syria.

Incidentally the Turks are devout followers of Islam, and Erdoğan is apparently abandoning Turkey’s traditionally secular posture. Nearly 75 percent of Turkey’s Muslims are Sunni.

Russia is unequivocally in the Shia camp, allied with the Iranians and with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad (who belongs to the Alawite Islamic group but is politically aligned with the Iranians).

Then. there’s Israel, America’s traditional ally. And the only thing Sunni and Shia seem to agree on is that Israel should be gone.

To me, the mess seems to have no solution. But innocent lives – hundreds of thousands of innocent lives – are being snuffed out in an endless and worsening religious war.

And religious groups that have nothing to do with the Shia-Sunni struggle, such as the Christians in Syria and the  Yezidi in Iraq – are caught in a deadly crossfire

On purely humanitarian grounds, something has to be done to restore peace in the region.

I think it’s a job for the UN. Unilateral American involvement looks like a no-win strategy to me.

And it’s really, really dangerous. Russian hard liners are already talking about World War III.

More on the mideast madness

More on Syria and the religious war

 

In Cahoots with the Russians

podesta

 

I’m sure your mother taught you not to read other people’s letters or eavesdrop on their conversations. My mother did.

“Listeners never hear good of themselves,” she used to say.

Everyone has a right to privacy. It’s spelled out in the United States Constitution. All Americans should be protected from snoops who pry into their private correspondence.

Especially when their privacy is invaded by a hostile foreign power. Like Russia. 

By publishing the hacked emails provided by WikiLeaks, the media are complicit in a crime. And their crime is not just invasion of privacy but sedition.

They are abetting a hostile power’s illegal acts designed to undermine America’s democratic process.

I suppose the media will respond by citing the First Amendment. But I think that’s a stretch.

As a Supreme Court chief justice once said, nobody has the right to shout “fire!” falsely in a crowded theater. The First Amendment has limits. And it certainly does not protect criminal activity.

I suppose the media might say that publishing John Podesta’s emails is in the public interest. But they should know better. These are not official correspondence but the private emails of a political strategist.

And the disclosures have offered very little to justify their publication. As Matt Bai, one of my favorite reporters, observes in a Yahoo News article today:

 So far we’ve learned that Clinton was nervously eyeing Elizabeth Warren. And that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was a minor irritant to the campaign. And that Neera Tanden, another Clinton adviser, once got mad at David Axelrod. And that Bill Clinton throws tantrums. And so on.

The big headline is: Campaign strategists often participate in discussions about campaign strategy, and sometimes they bicker like children. Also, courtesy of the New York Post, we’ve learned that a top aide at the Clinton Foundation may have been depressed, because everyone needed to know that.

The public titillation over those hacked emails is shameful. The fact that the media are giving the public access to stolen private correspondence is criminal.

Matt Bai’s article